An exhibition has just opened in Bradford called No Man’s Land – Women’s Photography and the First World War which runs until the end of December. These are VADs in Abbeville in 1919. We claim that Cicely Hamilton wrote William – an Englishman in a tent but maybe she in fact lived in one of these huts. There is something extraordinarily immediate and atmospheric about this photograph. Soon it will be time for our First World War nurse’s uniform to have a few weeks in the shop window.

ella coates 1910

Our last Poster Girl was in fact the very first. The London Transport website tells us that ‘Ella Coates was born in 1889 and studied at The London School of Art. She was commissioned for two London Transport posters by Frank Pick whilst at the School of Art. The first of these was Kew Gardens by Tram in 1910, at a time when Ella was living in Kew.The second poster was Great Hall, Hampton Court. The study for this was carried out in 1911 but the poster was not made until 1913. In 1914 Ella married Arthur Banks moving to Lancashire and later Yorkshire. She also exhibited at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. She died in 1937.’ But Ella Coates was the first woman ever to be commissioned by London Transport.


dorrit dekk

The fascinating Dorrit Dekk designed this poster in 1961. She died only three years ago at the age of 97, here is her obituary.

doris `inkeisen 1939

At the Theatre by Doris Zinkeisen was designed in 1939 but never used because of the war. Here is a very useful blog by Eliza Williams about Poster Girls. And here is an excellent 1945 painting by Doris Zinkelsen on Art UK, there are twenty-two more paintings, all of superb quality.

margaret calkin james 1929

The London Transport Museum in fact has ten posters by Margaret Calkin James in their collection here, all of them designed between 1928 and 1935 and this one in 1929. It’s also in the V & A, which says here: ‘It shows audience members in a theatre seated in the stalls watching a musical theatre performance, with another image below showing passengers comfortably seated in an underground railway carriage. The message it intended to convey was that an evening at the theatre would be more enjoyable and convenient if reached by Underground. Its title Q.E.D indicates that this message has been proved like a mathematical experiment which ends with those letters standing for ‘Quod erat demonstrandum’, or ‘what was to be demonstrated’ – meaning that proof has been given.’ Margaret Calkin James designed three fabrics that we have used as endpapers, for The New House, The Runaway and Gardener’s Nightcap; we sell the fabric for the latter in the shop, and cushions made out of it; and also have the Rainbow Workshops poster hanging at the back of the office (it was used on the front of the book about her by Betty Miles). This poster is unusual in being signed.


More posters this week: Poster Girls (the title is meant to be a funny double entendre but is a bit annoying in its nudge nudge implications) has just opened at the London Transport Museum and runs for a marvellous fifteen months. Its remit is to highlight the work of  women artists whose identity  was often cloaked in anonymity: the work would be unsigned, or disguised by initials, or subsumed under the name of an advertising agency. (In exactly the same way many of the unattributed textiles we use as endpapers were likely to have been by a woman.) This 1925 poster  was by Dora M Batty.


This poster is huge – about four feet by five feet – and hangs in the Persephone Books office; often people migrate from the shop part to the office part in order to admire it. The church looks like Berwick but over the years all viewers have concluded that in 1946 Walter Spradbery created a kind of composite rather than a carefully accurate portrait of that corner of Sussex.

British Tourist and Holidays Board poster. Artwork by Norman Wilkinson.

This 1950s Norman Wilkinson poster is in the other shop window – when the noise and traffic in Bloomsbury becomes a bit too much we go and stare at it longingly.

for Wed

‘Correct Address: Old Compton Street, London, W.1. Please use the correct District Number’, a 1960 poster by Peter Edwards published by the General Post Office (GPO). It’s evening on Old Compton Street in Soho with two women in the foreground and cars, more people, a church, billboard posters, shop signs and lit-up windows in the background under a pink sky. This poster is in the shop window at the moment, nicely paired with some orange and pink dahlias, and we put it on Instagram yesterday.


Another Persephone ancestor used to have an original copy of J’Accuse but alas no one knows what has happened to it. So we have a reproduction hanging in the shop and of course it’s pretty illegible but it makes the point: if only we had a Zola to say the right thing. Some columnists are consistently wise and sane and incisive about a country gone mad – but their pieces are too ephemeral, they don’t have the long-lasting impact of J’Accuse. There is a very good book about Zola’s exile to England by Michael Rosen, we shall sell it in the shop when it’s in paperback (in January): it’s called The Disappearance of Emile Zola: Love, Literature and the Dreyfus Case. As the blurb says: ‘ it’s the incredible true story of a writer’s personal bravery in the face of the greatest political scandal of the age.’ We are waiting for our Zola.

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59 Lamb's Conduit Street, London WC1N 3NB